Is the team that passes the most, the team that gets the best results?

By Tony Attwood

The CIES Football Observatory Weekly Post this week analyses InStat data on passes for 1,226 teams worldwide.

And in this analysis, Manchester City leads the table with 754 passes attempted per domestic league game and 90.8% of them are successful.  So one immediately leaps to the conclusion that passing is indeed good for a team.   Manchester City do it more than anyone, they’ve won the league four times in the past five years, and are looking to become only the fifth club in the history of the League to win it three times in a row.    (The others were Huddersfield Town, Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United).

We might then note that while Manchester City are top in terms of passes, Arsenal are 5th on 543.  So the simple thought is that if only we could do more passes and get our success rate up from 87.7% to Manchester City’s level of 90.8% we’d be on the way to matching them and at the same time securing our place at the top of the league.

Now you might be ready at this point to use this information as part of the data you gather before placing a bet with PowerPlay Sports betting

But just before you do, you might want to noting that fourth in the Premier League table of passing comes the almighty team of the moment, Leicester City. They have completed 11 more passes than Arsenal, and their success rate in terms of passing is only 0.7% lower than Arsenal’s.

As for noting the level of successful passes the top three in that analysis are Manchester City, Arsenal and Leicester.

Now that rather curious set of statistics might make you think that rates of passing are not that good at telling us how a team will do.   Perhaps there is a separate measure we could use such as the number of forward passes.  After all, clubs can build up quite a number of passes by hitting the ball around at the back.  So which team is top in terms of forward passes?

The answer happens to be… Bournemouth, currently in 13th position in the league.   Bottom of the “forward pass” league is… Manchester City.

So yes, Manchester City makes on average over twice as many passes as Bournemouth (754  as opposed to 352 at the time of writing).

Mind you even Manchester City’s level of passing isn’t enough to have it top of every passing table, for the highest level of successful passes comes from Paris St-Germain (91.3%).

And here is an interesting thought considering who we are playing this week: Bodø/Glimt are the European champions when it comes to lateral passes knocking up an astonishing 61.3%.

So what conclusion can we draw from all of this?  Probably the best one is that passing is just one factor but not a factor to consider on its own.

Quite probably the issue of how well one team is doing at home and the other team away from home is rather helpful – and if you are a regular reader here you might well know that we tend to publish this simple comparison prior to each Arsenal league match.  Some teams do tend to do much better at home than away – and a few vice versa.

But here’s a final tip, if you want to think about which team is likely to come out on top this season.   At the moment in the Premier League the team with the most goals per game, the second most shots per game, the lowest number of yellow cards, the highest possession percentage, and the highest pass percentage is Manchester City, and with that combination of factors in their favour, winning the league looks to be a foregone conclusion.

The problem there is that the odds won’t be that good.  Another approach would be to look at a combination of issues: the club with the lowest WhoScored rating (which is worked out by a combination of goals, shots, discipline, possession, pass accuracy and aerials won), is Nottingham Forest, closely followed by Bournemouth and Leicester.

So no surprises there.

And on the basis of the games so far, and using those same measures, the top four will not be as the media universally predicted, the same as last season.  It will be Manchester City first, Arsenal second, Newcastle United third and Tottenham fourth.  Liverpool come fifth, Chelsea eighth, and Manchester United 13th.

So now we know.   Figures courtesy of WhoScored.

One Reply to “Is the team that passes the most, the team that gets the best results?”

  1. The raw data itself cannot tell the complete story. As you say, passes are one of a number of relevant factors and are are a general reflection of possession and domination of games.

    However, (and this may be true of Leicester), teams may achieve a high number and success rate in passes which are carried out in their own defensive area, such as safe exchanges between centre-backs,

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